10th Anniversary of Pope’s Visit
One of the books I have been re-reading over recent weeks is a history of the Papacy from apostolic times to the present day by Eamon Duffy. (This virus is having a strange effect on all of us!) It is a mine of information on the history of the church and the role and influence of the popes throughout the centuries of the church’s existence. It is a candid account of the saints and the sinners who held papal office, of councils and conclaves, crises and concordats, powerbrokers and great pastors. Whenever we think that we are going through challenging or difficult times today they quickly pale into insignificance compared to some of the issues that the church has faced in the past. Looking back it does bear witness to the fact that it could only be the Holy Spirit at work that guided the church through some of these most challenging times. We need that same Holy Spirit to guide us through these present difficulties to a healthier and brighter future.
This week was the tenth anniversary of the visit of Pope Benedict to England and Scotland. Sadly he wasn’t able to visit the North West within his limited schedule. He began his visit by meeting the Queen in Edinburgh, he celebrated Mass in Westminster Cathedral and Cofton Park and prayed in Westminster Abbey alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury. His speech at Westminster Hall and his beatification of the now Saint, John Henry Newman, left a lasting legacy of a visit that had provoked criticism from some prior to the Pope Benedict’s arrival but in the end became a time of celebration for the whole country. Cardinal Vincent Nicholls has written a tribute of the visit, sharing some of his favourite memories on the Bishops Conference Website.
He concludes his account saying “I think Pope Benedict in this visit ten years ago, built on the impact of the visit of Saint John Paul 11 which shifted the perception of the presence of the catholic church in this country. And I think the visit – especially the visit to Westminster Hall, still resonates…..So I will be writing to Pope Benedict to thank him for his visit, to thank him for the gifts he gave us and thank him especially for his Beatification of John Henry Newman on that wonderful day in Cofton Park in Birmingham.’
We are having to face some tightening up of restrictions locally this week due to an increase of positive cases of the virus. Thankfully this will not affect the current availability of Masses at the Cathedral nor should it put you off coming to mass or being afraid to visit the Cathedral. It does however, remind us all about keeping a safe distance from one another and following the procedures carefully when we are in the building. We are all in this together and need to be concerned about each others safety.
Canon Anthony O’Brien